Avengers: Infinity War Writers Discuss Why They Brought Back Red Skull
Out of all the cameos and Marvel-themed Easter eggs peppered throughout Avengers: Infinity War, the one that arguably took everyone by surprise was the sudden appearance of Johann Shmidt (AKA Red Skull) on Vormir, home of the elusive Soul Stone.
Last seen during the finale of Captain America: The First Avenger, Hugo Weaving’s red-skinned maniac turned out to be the wraith-like guardian overseeing the Soul Stone, and his expertise proved indispensable as Thanos began to realize the gravity of his decision. The only problem is, that wasn’t Hugo Weaving behind the mask, as Marvel Studios tapped The Walking Dead‘s Ross Marquand for the role instead.
And during their recent deep-dive interview with Collider, Infinity War screenwriters Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely traced the genesis of Red Skull’s surprise cameo, beginning with Markus clarifying that they always planned for Johann Shmidt to reappear:
It’s always been part of the plan; we haven’t always known where to put him. Obviously, we started with him, 10 years ago, and he had the cosmic cube, which was then referred to sometimes as the ‘cosmic cube’ – we didn’t know it was one of the Infinity Stones [at the time]. And to be able to bring that all back around because, you know, there were drafts of [Captain America] The First Avenger where he more clearly died. Or was blown to pieces by the [Space Stone].
And so, when the time came to bring Red Skull back into the fray, Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely agreed that it was a no-brainer, as Shmidt’s character arc dovetailed with that of Thanos’ quite nicely.
But in the final movie, he’s clearly taken somewhere. And that was just sitting there. So the thought that he’s out there geographically…he’s obsessed with the stones [just like] Thanos – there were too many reasons to put him in it. And some people were like, ‘that’s a bridge too far’. But we were like, ‘he’s a purple man collecting stones, there are no bridges!’.
Bouncing off that, Markus recalled the duo’s approach to Infinity War, which began back in 2016 when Joe and Anthony Russo were busy launching Captain America: Civil War. And as Marvel was always aiming for the stars when it came to the third Avengers movie, McFeely and Markus essentially enjoyed free reign early on in the script process, as the latter told Collider:
I mean, put yourself in our position. We start while we’re shooting Civil War. So Chris and I go back every afternoon and start reading comics to come up with all of the possible blue-sky scenarios. And one of the mission’s was, ‘make it as big as you can’. That’s Infinity War – that’s the promise of it.
So we had [Red Skull] still out there. And as we kept moving along, we realized we needed someone to be the voice of expertise when [Thanos and Gamora] get to Vormir. And someone you believed when he told you what the rules were. So now this scene is doing more than one thing: it’s giving you the delight that this character is back, and it’s giving you the voice of expertise for the [Soul Stone].
Avengers: Infinity War is now playing across theaters worldwide, and is well on its way to a $2 billion gross.